Bill O'Brien doesn't know much about college football awards. He doesn't understand why there are midseason watchlists -- "shouldn't the award lists come out when the season is over?" the coach asked -- and doesn't pay much attention to media hype.
Though the first-year head coach -- whose name has surfaced as a national coach of the year candidate -- did have some thoughts about the hoopla.
First off, he doesn't think it's something his players pay much attention to.
"I think it's nice, and we respect the recognition and all that, but it's much more important to focus on the opponent," O'Brien said.
Second, he thinks there's a "certain amount of ridiculousness" that players like Mike Mauti, Gerald Hodges and Jordan Hill have been snubbed from some defensive watchlists. Most notably, all three were not named quarter finalists for the Lombardi Award, given annually to the top linebacker or lineman in the country. Among the 25 quarter finalists, four players were from the Big Ten.
"I can't imagine that there's that many linebackers or defensive linemen in the country better than those guys," O'Brien said. "I don't know how the awards work.But for those guys not to be on award lists, I don't know."
Here are some other highlights from O'Brien's weekly press conference, as the Nittany Lions (4-2, 2-0 Big Ten) prepare to face Iowa (4-2, 2-0) at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday:
Big night out: Saturday is Penn State's first night game of the season and O'Brien will have the Nittany Lions prepared. They will not practice at night this week -- it is difficult to coordinate with everyone's class schedules -- though they might get out on the field a bit later to turn the lights on. O'Brien will also pipe in some music and loud noise at practice this week to emulate the atmosphere at Kinnick Stadium. "Hopefully we can just give them a picture of it, and then when they get there Saturday night, they have a better understanding of how to deal with those things," O'Brien said. The coach also has a plan for how the players will prepare for the game. He will let them sleep in a bit, then watch tape, do some walk throughs and watch some other college football games. The most important part, O'Brien said, is to keep everyone moving throughout the day.
Twitter is the word: Earlier this week, senior cornerback Stephon Morris posted on his personal Twitter account, "Please stop looking ahead to next week. This is a huge game, we hate them they hate us. We're focused on Iowa that's it. One game at a time." When O'Brien was asked about the Tweet, he smiled and rolled his eyes. "Do you know what I hate?" O'Brien said. "I hate Twitter."
No discipline for Dukes: Redshirt junior running back Curtis Dukes is reportedly unhappy with his playing time. Dukes, listed as the fourth-string running back on this week's depth chart, spoke out to his hometown paper, The Watertown Daily Times. "I've been in this game for too long, and I feel like I deserve more of a shot, to have more playing time and get more exposure," Dukes told the paper. O'Brien was asked whether he would discipline Dukes for his comments. "It's a free country," O'Brien said. "Nah. Curtis is working hard, and he's a member of the football team. He's continuing to work hard, and that’s all I have to say about that."
Team energized: Penn State may enter Saturday's game on a four-game winning streak, but O'Brien insists it is Iowa -- which defeated Michigan State in double overtime on Saturday --- that has the momentum in this week's matchup. That's why O'Brien said he was pleased that his players looked "energized" at practice Monday. Many players went home over the weekend during the Nittany Lions' bye week. "They came back with effort, good attitude," O'Brien said, adding practice on Monday was a "decent start."
Belton healthy: Sophomore Bill Belton is listed as the Nittany Lions' No. 1 running back on this week's depth chart. He is followed by Zach Zwinak, Derek Day then Curtis Dukes. Belton suffered a high ankle sprain in the season-opener, missed three games. "I think the bye week helped a lot of those guys, Billy included," O'Brien said. "Yesterday Billy did some nice things in practice, as did a lot of those guys that were banged up."
Potential redshirt for Wartman: Redshirt freshman linebacker Nyeem Wartman (sprained knee) has not played since the Sept. 8 game against Virginia. Wartman is listed on this week's injury chart as "out" for Iowa. O'Brien said he has not made a decision yet on whether he will redshirt Wartman. "We're just going to continue to monitor that," O'Brien said. "He's a really good young player. It is getting later in the season, so something is going to have to be made probably pretty soon, but right now we haven't made that decision."